Ahead of World COPD Day, which takes place on Wednesday November 21, COPD Support Ireland, the umbrella body for 20 local COPD support groups, has announced a community-based exercise programme for people with COPD – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – in Longford. Perhaps more commonly known as bronchitis or emphysema, COPD is a chronic lung condition whose primary symptoms are breathlessness, persistent cough and regular chest infections.
The 12-week programme is designed to support self-care, reduce flare-ups and hospitalisations in people with COPD, with a particular focus on issues such as smoking cessation, nutrition and inhaler advice. Exercise is a key aspect of treatment for patients with obvious physical health benefits such as increased muscle strength, agility, flexibility and aerobic endurance, in addition to the social and mental health benefits. The programme also helps to slow progression of the disease which will, in turn, lead to fewer GP and hospital visits. For more information on the programme, email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 086 041 5128.
Prof JJ Gilmartin, Consultant Respiratory Physician and Chair, COPD Support Ireland, comments:
“Physical activity is crucial to maintenance of well-being for our patients and a major aim of COPD Support Ireland is to see pulmonary rehabilitation available in a timely fashion to all suitable patients. This should be supplemented with follow-on exercise programmes in the community. With greater awareness of signs and symptoms, and increased support in the community through access to tailored exercise, good information and peer support, we can do a lot to improve the quality of life of those living with COPD.”
Estimated to Affect 500,000 People, Yet Half Don’t Know
It’s estimated that there are almost half a million people in Ireland with COPD, however, many do not know that they have it1. There were 427 hospital admissions between 2015 and 2017 for people with COPD in Longford1 and it is the most common cause of disease-specific emergency admission to hospital among adults in Ireland.1
COPD is caused primarily by smoking, but can also be the result of inhalation of dust or chemicals, or exposure to indoor or outdoor pollution, including fumes in the workplace over an extended period of time. Some people with an existing illness such as chronic asthma may be more prone to developing COPD, while others may be pre-disposed to it due to a hereditary lung condition known as Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. People over the age of 35, who are or have been smokers, who have symptoms or who have a family history of the disease, should ask their GP for a COPD health check. This is done through a very simple spirometry breathing test, which measures the amount of air and how fast a person can blow it out, following the taking of a deep breath.
Range of Awareness Initiatives
In addition to the community exercise programme, COPD Support Ireland is undertaking a number of additional initiatives to raise awareness of COPD, and provide support for those with the disease. A national patient conference, “Let’s Get Moving on COPD”, will take place in the Royal College of Physicians, Kildare Street, Dublin 2, on Thursday November 15.
The conference, which is free of charge, will focus on improving self-care for people with COPD, and offer contributions from leading experts on the future of COPD treatment. Workshops to help people better manage their condition will take place, including on singing, art therapy, coping with breathlessness, benefits and entitlements, guidance for carers and preparing for retirement. Nurses will also provide walk-in COPD clinics and offer inhaler technique advice. The conference is supported by unrestricted educational grants from A. Menarini, Air Liquide, Astra Zeneca, Direct Medical, GSK, Home Health Care and Novartis. For more information, visit www.copd.ie.
A new booklet, COPD & Me, and public information packs, incorporating posters and leaflets, will also be available direct from COPD Support Ireland.
Members of the public wishing to speak to a respiratory nurse specialist can contact the COPD National Adviceline on Freefone 1800 83 21 46 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm). COPD Support Ireland can also be found on Twitter @COPDSupportIre
Top Seven Tips for Minding Your COPD
Give up smoking. Stopping smoking is the most important thing a person can do to improve their health. For help on quitting, visit www.quit.ie.
Breathe easy. Do breathing exercises and chest clearance techniques to help get rid of phlegm. It will also help you to relax more. Pursed lip breathing, or leaning forward, whether sitting or standing, and lying on your side, will also help you to control your breathing.
Get active. You may feel that exercise will make you even more breathless, however, the less exercise you do, the less you are able to do. Exercise, done in a safe and controlled way, is one of the best things that you can do to improve your breathlessness, overall fitness and quality of life. You can also join a pulmonary rehabilitation programme under the guidance of health professionals at your nearest hospital – this will help you to exercise safely and to manage your COPD better.
Eat well. Try to have a balanced diet and maintain a healthy weight. Eat little and often rather than having big meals. Good nutrition will provide your body with the energy it needs to breathe and build up your immune system to help prevent and fight infection. Drink plenty of fluids, especially if you are having a flare-up.
Know your medications. Talk with your health professional about your medications and how they work. Make sure that you are using the correct inhaler technique and always make sure that you have enough of your medications and that you don’t run out. Have any medical equipment serviced regularly and ensure that masks and mouthpieces are cleaned and changed routinely.
Avoid flare-ups. Keep away from smoky environments, pollutants like dusts, smog or foggy weather, and try to minimise your risk of colds and ’flus including making sure to get the ’flu jab every year. Discuss a COPD self-management plan with your health professional. This will help you to know your symptoms, what is usual for you, and when to start treatment early, alter your medication, or seek help, if you feel things are getting worse.
Mind your feelings. Living with a long-term illness is not easy and can give rise to feeling low or anxious. For help on minding your emotional health, visit www.copd.ie.